When I come home from church on Sunday afternoons, after meeting my friend Jackie for lunch, listening to her tell me stories about her fourth-grade class and the funny things they say, I kick off my shoes and pull up my hair and think about taking a long, comfortable nap, with blankets piled high, the windows open and the fresh breeze flowing in. But instead, for weeks in a row now, I’ve done no such thing. Instead, go figure, I’ve been baking cakes.
It all started when my brother told me about that coconut recipe he saw; then there was the yogurt I wanted to try baking with, although that might have been a weeknight; most recently, it was because I had a glass full of heavy cream about to go bad, and I didn’t want to waste it. These are simple excuses, not exactly the stuff of solid alibi, I know, but what can I say? Cakes are simple and satisfying—like cookies—and they don’t take much work, and, well, mostly, I am bad at turning them down, even when fresh sheets call my name.
For this last cake, I didn’t go in with high hopes, which is key to enjoying what you make, I find. This would just be something to use the heavy cream in, and I didn’t care how it was frosted or what I would do with it or who would eat it.
To start, I mixed the batter: eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla and, importantly, heavy cream. It’s the cream that gives the mixture its consistency: thick and velvety, the kind that holds its shape when you lift it from the bowl. I actually went back to the recipe a few times to make sure I hadn’t forgotten something, sure a batter this thick couldn’t be right. But after I’d spread it in the pan like frosting and baked it for half an hour, it emerged as something entirely different: a simple, fragrant, white cake that pulled away from the edges of the pan and fell easily onto a cooling rack.
This recipe is called a cream cake, which, beyond its obvious use of cream in the ingredients, simply means it is the kind usually filled and/or topped with some sort of cream or cream-like substance like a custard. I ate this cake—well, cakes, since it makes two layers—plain, sans frosting, and enjoyed every simple, sweet bite. But they’d be just as lovely with a homemade whipped cream, maybe with fresh berries on the side. I’d avoid buttercream, which would be too heavy with the rich texture, if you can.
Honestly, I had half a mind to go out to the store for some whipping cream to whip up right then, but, anticipating the following Sunday afternoon when I’d want to use up the leftovers, again, I stopped myself. So I hope you’ll try it that way for me? Do it whenever you’d like, Sunday afternoons or otherwise, and let me know what you think.
Adapted from About.com
Like I said, because this was an impromptu decision, I didn’t plan for frosting, but I think you should. Homemade whipped cream is as simple as blending heavy cream in a bowl, set over another bowl filled with ice. (You can also just stick everything in a stand mixer [no ice], but it will take longer.) Once it’s starting to thicken, add around three Tablespoons of sugar and maybe a little vanilla for flavor and continue mixing.
1 cup sugar
1 2/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat eggs until thick and bright yellow; then add sugar.
In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add them, alternately with the cream and vanilla, beating well.
Spread batter into two 8-inch round pans—it will seem thicker than usual cake batter, but that is OK. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.